A Deep Breath
My name is Dexter Jared Peterson. I am 26 years old and I live in New York City. In the last seven years I have lived as 11,577 different people.
I had the sensation of falling again, but this time in the dark. I tried to flail my arms to reach out for something, but resistance told me right away that I was in the water. A gasp of breath filled my lungs with sweet air, and I realized I was in a diving suit. I tried to calm myself. A wave of vertigo washed over me when I felt nothing under my feet but unknown fathoms of water. I was floating free save for the cable attached to me from the surface, a realm that was very far away judging by the stark absence of light.
A voice crackled in my head. “Dexter, you all right buddy?”
If I could hear them, then they could hear me. “Yeah, I’m fine, just… getting my bearings.”
“Ok. When you’re ready, just keep going along the hull. We’ll find it in soon. We have to.”
I peered through the thick glass in front of my face. A beam of light from my helmet lanced out tangibly in the murky water, and I saw a gray wall in front of me. I reached out to touch what must have been the hull of a large sunken ship. I could almost feel the cold through my thick diving glove. I began to move along the side of the ship, not sure where I was going nor even how fast thanks to the unchanging scenery. I heard the radio crackle again as my cable moved with me, and I hoped it didn’t go out. I had no idea how to get myself out of this without the help of those above me.
A hole in the ship faded into view; an ugly anchor port, its pulley a misshapen tongue belching its huge chain out into the sea. There was apparently a camera on me somewhere because it sparked some interest from the other end of my cable. I waited while they discussed the discovery, and soon I was given the order to proceed. As I left the anchor chain behind my hand touched the side of the ship, roaming along the hull as if the contact might help me find what I was looking for.
As I moved on in the mucky water, my mind drifted back to her. It was almost like I could feel her close by, just waiting for me to see her. Why I would feel this connection while I was alone at the bottom of some ocean, I couldn’t say. I tried to put her out of my mind to focus on the task at hand. The hull began to curve outward above me here, like it might at the bow of some of the large ships I’d seen before. I traced the contour upward, careful not to hit my head on the hard steel of the ship.
I felt like I was close to something, but I couldn’t say what. As I pushed onward I strangely began to enjoy my silent time with the ship as if we were old friends getting to know each other again. Then, as my hand brushed the hull, I saw a different color than the steel gray I was used to. I stopped and began to rub the grime from the steel. Letters began to fade into view before my eyes. I must have found the name of the ship! There was a D, an A, an I, and then I found an N, an E. Finally I’d exposed the whole word, and I took in a breath when I saw what it said.
“Oh my god.” The silence in my helmet was broken when my words reached the surface.
“Hey Dex? The camera’s on the fritz again, buddy. What’d you find?”
I stared at the letters for a moment, confused and surprised at the same time. I didn’t even try to say the name yet, for fear that I might wake up in some new reality and start all over again. Finally I made my mouth work enough to pronounce the name. “Alexandria!” Judging by the reaction, I’d obviously found what we’d been looking for. The words of my contact on the surface were drowned out by the cheering of those around him, but all I could do was stare.
I reached out again to touch the name, and took a deep breath as I shared the quiet deep with Alexandria.